Let’s Make Viral Visible

Keeping you and your loved ones safe through awareness

Charity Meningitis Now is calling for those who have suffered from the viral form of the disease to ‘Make Viral Visible’ to help dispel myths and misconceptions that this form of the disease is not dangerous and always mild.

Viral Meningitis Week takes place between 6th and 12th May.

Expert opinion suggests up to 6,000 people each year across the UK suffer from viral meningitis, an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. The majority of cases happen during the warmer months.

What is viral meningitis?

Meningitis can be divided into two main types; viral and bacterial meningitis. We will discuss viral meningitis here.

Viral meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and the spinal cord. These membranes are called the meninges – they help protect the brain from injury and infection. Viral meningitis is more common than bacterial meningitis and although rarely life-threatening, it can make people very unwell. Most people make a very good recovery, but for some recovery can be slow and after-effects long lasting.

Many people who experience viral meningitis feel that they are dismissed as having the ‘milder’ form of meningitis. Very little is understood about the recovery and after-effects.

Symptoms in adults and children (not babies):

Early symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, muscle pain, diarrhoea and fever with cold hands and feet.

Someone with meningitis can get a lot worse very quickly. Keep checking them and trust your instincts – get medical help immediately.

Do not wait for a rash. If someone is ill and getting worse, get medical help immediately.

The facts

  • Thousands of cases occur every year
  • Anyone can get viral meningitis but it is most common in babies and young children
  • Viral meningitis symptoms can be similar to those of bacterial meningitis, so it is essential to seek urgent medical help if concerned
  • Many different viruses can cause meningitis - enteroviruses are the most common cause
  • Viral meningitis is not generally considered to be contagious; contact with someone who has the illness does not usually increase the risk of disease to others. Linked cases of viral meningitis are extremely unusual and almost all cases occur alone
  • There is no specific treatment for most cases of viral meningitis. Patients need to be hydrated with fluids, given painkillers and allowed to rest in order to recover. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses. However, in some instances, antibiotics may be started on admission to hospital because the cause of meningitis is not known. Antibiotics are usually discontinued once diagnosed. Find out more
  • Although most people will make a full recovery, the recovery process can be slow. Some can be left with serious and life-changing after-effects
  • After-effects can include headaches, exhaustion and memory loss
  • Although there aren’t vaccines to prevent most cases, the MMR vaccine, which is given as part of the UK routine immunisation schedule, protects against measles, mumps and rubella viral infections. Prior to the use of this vaccine, mumps was a common cause of viral in children.

Natasha’s story

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